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Fact: The Dodge Viper Has More Ground Clearance Than the Honda Odyssey

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author photo by Doug DeMuro February 2017

Here's something I'm absolutely certain you didn't know: The Dodge Viper has more ground clearance than the Honda Odyssey. Let me repeat that: The Dodge Viper, which has 5.0 inches of ground clearance, is higher off the ground than the Honda Odyssey, which has 4.5 inches of ground clearance. There is no trickery here. I'm not making anything up. These numbers come straight from the manufacturer websites.

I learned this the other day from my friend Drew, who edits LeftLaneNews.com, and my initial reaction was the same as yours: disbelief. After all, the Viper is a low, wide, cool, exotic sports car, and the Honda Odyssey is a minivan. How could this possibly be true?

So then I went and fact-checked Drew, assuming he got his numbers wrong, and I went to the websites, and I searched through various magazine tests, and I discovered the reality: Drew is right. Disappointingly, Drew is often right. The Dodge Viper is higher off the ground than the Honda Odyssey. How could this possibly be?

As the owner of a Dodge Viper, I pondered this quite a bit for a day or two, and then I came to a conclusion: I suppose it makes some sense.

Here's what I mean. To my knowledge, ground clearance is measured from the ground to the single lowest point on a car -- and it just so happens that the lowest point on an Odyssey is half an inch lower than the lowest point on a Viper. At first, you're tempted to think this is unusual, considering that my Dodge Viper seems to scrape its chin spoiler every time I enter anything, whereas Honda Odyssey people probably wouldn't put up with all that much scraping from a minivan.

But what ground clearance doesn't measure is a more important number for people who have a steep driveway: the approach angle. Although this term isn't commonly used in the car world, off-roaders will know it well: It's the maximum angle of a hill, or curb, or driveway, that a vehicle can reasonably approach without scraping its front bumper. If you have a 90-degree approach angle, you can climb a vertical wall. If you have a zero-degree approach angle, your car is millimeters off the ground and you can't even go over a road line. Stance nation, yo.

So in the case of my Viper, it's not the ground clearance that causes a problem: I never scrape the middle of the car on anything. Instead, the issue is the approach angle. The Viper only feels low because it's constantly scraping everything on that protruding chin spoiler. The Odyssey, meanwhile, has virtually no front overhang ahead of its wheels, which gives it a much better approach angle -- and that means it can climb just about every reasonable ramp or driveway.

So here's the conclusion: The Odyssey may have less ground clearance than the Viper, but it still has 4.5 inches -- enough to clear virtually any obstacle or pothole you'll encounter on a normal street. But the Viper still feels lower than the Odyssey because its long front overhang affects its approach angle, which causes it to scrape on far more surfaces -- such as, for example, every single time I go to put it in my parking garage.

And now you've learned something today.

Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Fact: The Dodge Viper Has More Ground Clearance Than the Honda Odyssey - Autotrader